Now we need a documentary about the scene where Fritz pulls his sock up.
“It was on a dreary night in November that I beheld my man completed…”—Mary Shelley
As of this writing, we’re only a few weeks away from the theatrical release of I, Frankenstein starring Aaron Eckhart. Those of you reading this years from now will know whether it’s become a modern classic and the film against which all other films are held up against. Until then, we’ve got Frankenstein: The Real Story—three Frankenstein-related documentaries from the History Channel’s archives.
• In Search of the Real Frankenstein (2008)—A look at real nineteenth-century scientists whose experiments may or may not have inspired Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.
• Frankenstein (1997)—A survey of the life of Mary Shelley and her many influences.
• It’s Alive! The True Story of Frankenstein (1995)—A rundown of most of the film adaptations of Frankenstein, with most of the screen time devoted to the Karloff/Whale classics, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, and the then-new Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Frankenstein: The Real Story is a catalogue release. History Channel took three dust-gatherers off their shelf and stitched them together onto this single disc to generate a few extra bucks off the Frankenstein name. How much enjoyment you get from this depends on how much you already know about the subject matter. The most interesting bits for me were the many facts about Mary Shelley’s interesting but often unhappy life. The emphasis is on the rainy summer evenings in which she created the Frankenstein story with husband Percy Shelley and their, um, friend Lord Byron, but plenty of other ground is covered as well. Various experts and historians are interviewed, dropping lots of fascinating tidbits about Shelley.
The overview of the many Frankenstein films will be nothing new for movie lovers. It might make a nice starter for those not well-versed in the Universal classics, but the many other versions, including the seminal Hammer flicks, only get an abbreviated mention. Mel Brooks, Kenneth Branagh, and makeup artist Rick Baker get interview segments. The documentary on the real scientists tries way too hard to be dark and scary. The stories themselves are interesting, but they don’t need the narrator constantly chiming in to tell us how horrifying and macabre it all was.
1.33:1 full frame transfer is acceptable, although the older documentary looked a little softer and rougher than the others. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is fine, but hardly a standout. There are no extras.
If interested, make Frankenstein: The Real Story a rental queue disc. I don’t see a lot of replay value here.